Words matter: why use ‘exercise’ instead of ‘test’?
By Ray Abide
In the past, I have mostly referred to the activity in which participants are assembled to work through a simulated business continuity event in order to determine their familiarity with the plan, its completeness, and perform their individual roles to recover from a given scenario as a business continuity plan test. Sometimes I have interchangeably used the term ‘exercise’ or ‘simulation’ instead of ‘test’.
As defined by Merriam-Webster Online:
The definitions are similar; in fact, notice that the term exercise appears in parentheses as part of the definition of test.
There are several reasons, why I am modifying my behavior to use ‘exercise’ and suggest that if you are involved in business continuity management, you do so as well.
An exercise should:
If you subscribe to the theory that ‘experience is the best teacher’ but you also believe that an actual emergency is not the best classroom, then a carefully constructed, realistic simulation for an exercise provides the best available learning opportunity. It is important to select a scenario that is likely to occur. A good place to source a likely scenario is your risk assessment. It is also important to allow sufficient time for people to practice their roles during the exercise. This serves to strengthen the recovery teams.
It is equally important to surface gaps and weaknesses in the plan then make improvements before an actual emergency.
The approach should follow a cycle of: Exercise, Learn, and Improve. Sufficient time must be allotted to create the scenario that will support learning, to document the activities during the exercise, then to analyze the results afterward to determine potential flaws that require corrective action, and make plan improvements that enhance the plan.
When a simulation is presented as above, would you rather be included in an ‘exercise’ or a ‘test’?
Ray Abide is responsible for the business continuity program for a major financial services company and is a Certified Business Continuity Professional and Certified Public Accountant. Ray lives in Dallas, Texas. He may be contacted at www.linkedin.com/in/rayabide or www.rayabide.com.
•Date: 5th July 2013 • US/World •Type: Article • Topic: BC exercising